By Kaylynn Paynter
Sept. 24, 2014.
Gordon Aten knows pumpkins.
And a smooth skin, nice shape with a good set of ribs and no blemishes are all telltale features of a great looking giant pumpkin, he says.
Aten is president of the P.E.I. Giant Pumpkin Growers Association and he has been growing gargantuan gourds for nearly two decades.
The pumpkins, which can gain 30 t0 50 pounds a day at the peak of its growth require patience, persistence and a little bit of luck to grow successfully, he said.
“It all starts with the right seed and soil full of lots of organic matter. You need to have your garden in a sheltered spot because the pumpkins don’t like the wind, but they love the sun.”
If you ask Aten’s brother, Alan, a five-time winner at the weigh off, he would tell you this has not been a banner year for growing giant pumpkins.
“It was a cold, miserable spring this year and they (pumpkins) just got started in July and then Hurricane Arthur came along and broke all of the plants off. He wrecked five plants and I had to start all over.”
Despite weather related setbacks, Gordon and Alan will submit pumpkins for judging at the 21st annual giant pumpkin and squash weigh off at Vesey’s seeds in York on Oct. 11.
“I’m entering in the best looking pumpkin contest,” Gordon said.
Prizes will also be awarded for best pumpkin from a first-time grower, pumpkin closest to 300 pounds, as well as heaviest pumpkin and heaviest squash.
John Barrett, director of sales, marketing and development for Vesey’s, encourages families to come out to see the prodigious produce and take in all that rural P.E.I. has to offer.
“It’s such a fun thing for the kids. We bring in this big, massive scale and we have a line of people who are called pumpkin porters who carry these pumpkins to the scale, which is not a simple task. Usually it takes like six or eight guys to move these pumpkins.”
Children will also be able to enjoy a number of activities, including pumpkin painting, carving and hayrides.